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What is a microplastic and how big is the glitter microplastic pollution problem?

Helpful Information, Product Information

What is a microplastic?

A microplastic is a small piece of plastic, less than 5mm in size, made from polymeric materials that do not biodegrade quickly and safely in the natural environment.  These can originate from;

  • Secondary Microplastics  –  Larger plastic objects like bottles and other packaging that break down in terms of particle size in the natural environment.
  • Primary Microplastics  –   Plastic that can enter the environment already small enough to be a microplastic.  Examples of primary microplastics;
    • wash fibres from man-made fabrics,
    • weathering of exterior and road coatings
    • vehicle tyre dust, the most significant contributor and probably least spoken about.  As tyres wear down the create dust that washing into surface road drains.

The issue with microplastics is that they can attract toxic chemicals in the environment, acting as a sponge that can concentrate these chemicals and can enter the food chain.

Click here to view a video CNN published on ‘What is a microplastic?’ 

As traditional plastic based glitter is typically less than 5mm in size and made from plastic, it’s are considered to be primary microplastic.  This, combined with how glitter is used in some applications can contribute to plastic pollution in the natural environment.  Glitters used in single use applications were it can easily find its way into the environment such as; cosmetics, flower decoration, card printing, kids craft, paint and gift wrap, are of particular concern.


How big is the glitter microplastic pollution problem?

It’s important to be mindful that the extent of glitter pollution is very small, estimated to be much less than 0.05% in comparison to the other forms of primary microplastic pollution.  It’s even smaller when secondary microplastics are taken into consideration.

From a recent National Geographic article “So while there is evidence of accumulation of microplastics in general and evidence of harm from lab studies, there is a lack of clear evidence specifically on glitter,” says Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at the University of Plymouth in western Britain and a leading expert on microplastics. “We have microplastic particles in around one third of the 500 fish we examined in the English Channel, but we did not find any glitter.”

Needless to say, glitter is still a microplastic and no matter how small the potential issue, it still needs addressing.  Hence our passion to drive, innovate and continue to develop our award-winning Bioglitter™ product ranges.